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Frampton-Santa Cruz rematch gets boxing year off to fast start

Editor’s note: Tim Burgess will be providing occasional fight coverage for Houston Sports and Stuff. Follow him on Twitter @timburg

By TIM BURGESS

Last July Carl Frampton and Leo Santa Cruz  slugged it out at The Barclays Center in one of the fights of the year. At the end of the night it was underdog Frampton who had his hand raised and won a majority decision victory, claiming the WBA Super world featherweight title. It was so much fun everyone involved decided to do it again: Saturday night the biggest card of the young 2017 year gets under way when the two hit the ring for a rematch on Showtime.

Frampton (23-0), a 29 year-old Northern Irishman, had the biggest year of his career in 2016. First he unified super bantamweight titles when he claimed a split decision victory over Scott Quigg in Manchester. Then Frampton came across the pond to New York and took home a victory over Santa Cruz (32-1-1.) An impressive feat, grabbing world titles on two different continents in two different weight classes in a single year. Frampton will be hard pressed to match his 2016, in which many boxing publications named him their fighter of the year. But a convincing victory over Santa Cruz on Saturday would be quite the start.
Last year’s fight was scored a majority decision by the judges: One judge saw a 114-114 draw while the other two had it 116-112 and 117-111 for Frampton. I saw the fight at 118-111 Frampton. Despite being shorter and at a reach disadvantage, Frampton was more active throughout the fight and got the better of Santa Cruz both offensively and defensively. Santa Cruz is tremendously gifted, but occasionally looks a bit apathetic in the ring, which I think puts him at a scoring disadvantage against the all-action Frampton.
If Santa Cruz wants things to go differently this time around he will need to use his reach advantage to frustrate Frampton. The taller fighter generally has the advantage on the outside, but Frampton looked comfortable landing and avoiding punches both in close quarters and from distance in the first meeting. If Santa Cruz can land with his jab enough to give Frampton something to think about, things could go differently this time around. Regardless of the winner, if Frampton-Santa Cruz II is half as good as the first installment I’ll be bouncing off the walls of my living room on Saturday night.
STACKED DECK
After playing second fiddle to HBO for what seems like my whole lifetime, Showtime has put together quite the lineup to start the year. They’ll have Adrien Broner and Jorge Linares headlining on Showtime in the coming months in addition to Keith Thurman vs. Danny Garcia on sister network CBS. HBO has instead chosen to embrace bad pay per view matchups. Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland will fight in what would be an excellent HBO card but disappointing pay per view. In March, Gennady Golovkin defends his unified titles against Daniel Jacobs also on pay per view, in another match more suited for regular HBO.
TWISTING HIS ARM
Immediately following the first Santa Cruz-Frampton matchup both fighters expressed a desire for a rematch. Frampton said he would like to see the fight land in Belfast, while Santa Cruz stated he’d like to match up with Frampton in Los Angeles. It seems that Santa Cruz got the better of the negotiations as Saturday’s fight will be at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a mere hop skip and a jump from LA.
UNDERCARD REPORT
Mikey Garcia (35-0) takes on Dejan Zlaticanin (22-0) for the WBC lightweight title. Garcia looked well on his way to being one of the pound-for-pound best in 2013, but a dispute with his manager kept him out of action for well over two years. After a tuneup fight last year this is Garcia’s first real test following his long layoff.
TIM’S PICK
Frampton by unanimous decision. Generally in boxing rematches I tend to believe whoever won the first fight will further impose their will in fight two. This is definitely the case here, as despite his physical limitations Frampton looked like the superior fighter in the majority of rounds the first time these two were in the ring.

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